By GREG BEACHAM
LOS ANGELES — Dustin Brown slumped in front of his locker and contemplated the final minutes of Game 2 with the same bewildered wonder felt by all those joyous Kings fans streaming out of Staples Center.
With three minutes left, the San Jose Sharks appeared to be cruising toward a well-deserved win over Los Angeles. After two penalties and two dynamic power-play goals, the Kings were halfway to the Western Conference finals.
And even the Kings weren’t quite sure how they got there.
Brown tied it with 1:43 left and Trevor Lewis scored the tiebreaking power-play goal 22 seconds later, propelling the defending Stanley Cup champions to a 4-3 victory Thursday night and a 2-0 series lead.
“It’s huge, I guess,” Brown said. “Two minutes left, down one, it’s about capitalizing. The power play is about scoring big goals, and we found a way to do that. We’re happy with the result, but we have to play better. We can’t let it get to that situation every night.”
Brown scored during a 5-on-3 advantage and Lewis provided the winner on a loose puck with 1:21 left, sending Staples Center into shocked celebration. The Kings won their 12th straight home game since March and their sixth straight postseason game, but only after getting outplayed for long stretches and needing late-game magic to thrive.
“It’s a roller coaster, but when you go through the experience of everything we did last year, you keep your emotions in check,” Brown said. “Even when that happens, you know there’s a lot of work still to do.”
Game 3 is Saturday night at the Shark Tank.
Jeff Carter scored on the Kings’ first shot and added an assist on Brown’s goal. Drew Doughty scored an early power-play goal for Los Angeles, which didn’t really get rolling until the third period — and with two late goals, the Kings landed one of the most amazing victories in their relatively thin playoff history.
“We found a way,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “You know what? The power play was on. We’ve been talking about it. We’ve been getting good looks and good opportunities and not finishing, and we got it from different guys.”
Jonathan Quick made 28 saves for the Kings, tying Kelly Hrudey’s franchise record with his 26th career playoff victory. Antti Niemi stopped 27 shots for the Sharks, but was powerless to stop the Kings’ power play.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored his first career playoff goal with 11:04 to play for the Sharks, who were doomed by their late penalties after rallying from an early two-goal deficit. Coach Todd McLellan left his team alone in the dressing room afterward.
“I liked our game,” McLellan said. “We’ll meet (Friday) at the rink, and I’ll tell our team that. The thing I like about our team, maybe in the past, this would have bothered our team more, but with the group of guys we have, I think we can recover from this.”
Patrick Marleau and Brad Stuart scored second-period goals for the Sharks, who largely dominated the first two periods with another barrage of superior speed and skill. None of it mattered when the Kings charged ahead.
“We’ve got to put it behind us,” said Stuart, who had a goal and an assist. “There’s two ways for us to respond. We can either fold up and say, ‘Oh, at least we tried,’ or we can say, ‘You know what? We can win.’
“I think 5-on-5, we were the better team. We keep doing those kinds of things, we’ll get our wins. That’s what we have to do. We have to respond in that way. We’re being tested, and it’s about how we’re going to respond. The key for us is to come out and do a lot of the same things we were doing tonight.”
After Vlasic’s score on a rebound of Stuart’s shot off the end boards, the Sharks seemed to be cruising to a win — until Stuart was whistled for tripping with 2:41 to play. Just 22 seconds later, Vlasic joined him in the box when he shot the puck over the glass, although Vlasic claimed the puck had deflected off Carter.
The Kings scored 36 seconds later, with Brown pounding home his second goal of the postseason. Lewis got the winner shortly after the ensuing faceoff, finding a loose puck on the back side of a scrum in front of Niemi after a shot by rookie Tyler Toffoli.
Lewis hadn’t scored in the postseason, but the depth forward scored two goals in the Kings’ Cup-clinching win over New Jersey last June.
“Power play got it done in the end when we needed it most,” Lewis said. “We’ve got some work to do to clean things up, but it’s a big win for us.”
The Kings played without veteran center Jarret Stoll, who didn’t return to Game 1 after a hit from San Jose’s Raffi Torres late in the second period. Torres was suspended for the rest of the series Thursday by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his illegal check to the head after a hearing in New York.
Brad Richardson contributed a key power-play assist while filling in for Stoll.
Los Angeles has won six straight home playoff games dating to last season’s Stanley Cup clincher, but none was more surprising than this victory. The Sharks appeared to be sure Quick couldn’t steal another win after the Kings took the opener despite getting outshot 35-20.
Quick’s streak of more than 125 minutes of shutout hockey ended in the second period with two quick San Jose goals. Vlasic then gave San Jose its first lead with a rebound goal on Stuart’s shot off the end boards midway through the period, capping a lengthy scramble near Quick’s net. Vlasic didn’t score a goal in his first 73 career playoff games.
The Kings were forced to make several changes in the absence of Stoll, the third-line center and faceoff specialist who excels on special teams. Stoll was replaced by Richardson, who played 13 postseason games during the Kings’ championship run last summer.
The Sharks replaced Torres by juggling their lineup, promoting Joe Pavelski to the second line and using several new combinations. Tim Kennedy was in uniform for just his second game of the postseason for San Jose, which also played without injured forward Marty Havlat.